Dan Rooney — Pittsburgh Steelers, PB Kennel Club owner — dead at 84


In the nearly half century that Dan Rooney and his four brothers have owned the Palm Beach Kennel Club, he maintained a residence in the area, but rarely came down, his nephew said.

“The Steelers were really his life,” Patrick Rooney Jr., chief executive officer of the Kennel Club, said Thursday afternoon.

Dan Rooney, owner of the professional football team that put Pittsburgh on the sports map, garnering six Super Bowl trophies in three decades, died Thursday at 84 in Pittsburgh.

“Few men have contributed as much to the National Football League as Dan Rooney,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement.

“All of us at Palm Beach Kennel Club are saddened to learn of the passing of track co-owner Dan Rooney…Our thoughts and prayers go out to Dan’s family and many friends,” said a statement released by the Kennel Club Thursday night.

Rooney’s health had been poor the last three years and grew worse in the last few months, said his nephew, who left the Florida House of Representatives in November. Dan Rooney also was the uncle of Pat Jr.’s brother, U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Okeechobee.

Dan Rooney was born in 1932, the year his father, Art “The Chief” Rooney, founded the Pittsburgh Steelers franchise — and, by coincidence, the year the Kennel Club was opened by other owners. Dan, the oldest of five Rooney sons, was a Steelers ballboy as a young teenager and played halfback in Catholic high school. He already was signing players to contracts as he pursued his accounting degree at the city’s Duquesne University.

Later, he sold Steelers tickets and program ads even as the Steelers foundered in the 1950s and 1960s, with the Rooney family fending off suitors who wanted to move them out of Pittsburgh.

“My grandfather (Art) was a great sportsman, but he hired a lot of his friends to do some of the front office work,” Pat Jr. said. “If you look at our work from the 1930s to 1972, it reflected that.”

In the early 1970s, Dan Rooney took over team operations from his father, who would die at 87 in August 1988. Soon after, Dan Rooney hired Chuck Noll as head coach, and the Steelers moved into the NFL’s spotlight.

Later, one of the few that got away from Dan Rooney was Pittsburgh local Dan Marino.

“Mr. Rooney meant so much to the city of Pittsburgh & NFL,” the Miami Dolphins Hall of Fame quarterback said Thursday in a tweet. “Thank you for all that u have done. I’m honored to have called you my friend. #RIP.”

Dan Rooney eventually would turn over Steelers team operations to his son Art II, and in 2009, began a three-year stint as U.S. ambassador to Ireland.

Late in life, as he always had done, he still went to Mass daily and drove himself to work.

“Growing up on the North Side, we didn’t think about your skin color or your accent or what church you went to,” Rooney wrote in his memoir, “Dan Rooney: My 75 Years with the Pittsburgh Steelers and the NFL.” “What mattered was that you lived up to your word, pulled your own weight and looked out for your friends.”

Rooney and his father join the New York Giants’ Tim and Wellington Mara as the only father-son combination in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

In 1970, Art Rooney bought the kennel club, across from Palm Beach International Airport west of West Palm Beach. It had gone through three owners in its first four decades. In recent years, competition from casinos and the state lottery have cut into the Kennel Club’s success.

Art Rooney eventually turned over the kennel club to his five sons, including Dan and Patrick Sr., who still lives in Palm Beach Gardens, Pat Jr. said Thursday. Pat Jr. said he took his father’s share of the operations in 2007 and that Dan turned over most of his Kennel Club responsibilities about four years ago.

“Unlike my other uncles, who are frequent ‘customers’ over at the track, my uncle Dan rarely came over there,” he said.

The funeral is set for Tuesday in Pittsburgh.

This story was supplemented with material from NFL.com.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

Huge crowd mourns Parkland teen shooting victim Joaquin Oliver
Huge crowd mourns Parkland teen shooting victim Joaquin Oliver

Wearing Cubs jerseys, Dolphin jerseys, Panther jerseys, Chelsea United jerseys, but most of all Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School jerseys, hundreds turned out Saturday to mourn the death and celebrate the life of 17-year-old Joaquin Oliver, an athlete and avid sports fan who was among the 17 killed during Wednesday’s shooting rampage...
Guard at Boca retirement community stole from residents, deputies say
Guard at Boca retirement community stole from residents, deputies say

A Broward County man, who worked at a retirement community in an unincorporated area of Boca Raton, was arrested earlier this month when he surrendered to authorities after being accused of stealing jewelry from residents, deputies said. Salvatore Bisecco, 26, faces charges of grand theft of a person 65 or older and burglary to a dwelling in a string...
Woman ‘just out of rehab’ had open 12-pack, child in car, deputies say
Woman ‘just out of rehab’ had open 12-pack, child in car, deputies say

A woman was arrested on Thursday in an unincorporated area of Wellington after deputies said she drove intoxicated with a child in the back seat, who was sitting above an open case of beer. A Palm Beach County Sheriff’s deputy pulled over Miami resident Stephanie Roque, 30, on Forest Hill Boulevard and Lyons Road abour 11 a.m. after she made...
Trump in Palm Beach: No golf. Tweets on Russia election meddling and fake news
Trump in Palm Beach: No golf. Tweets on Russia election meddling and fake news

UPDATE 7:30 p.m.: The president called Parkland Mayor Christine Hunschofsky, Broward County Commissioner Michael Udine, and Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Principal Ty Thompson Saturday afternoon to express condolences and offer support to the students, families and community.  A tweet the president posted at 6:45 p.m. includes the...
Australian priest reacts to Parkland shooting with swipe at US on church marquee 
Australian priest reacts to Parkland shooting with swipe at US on church marquee 

A rector at a church in Australia sent a pointed message to the United States this week in the wake of the shooting deaths at a high school in Parkland, Florida, on Feb. 14, The Washington Post reported. On the marquee outside the Gosford Anglican Church, the Rev. Rod Bower posted the message, “When will they love their kids more than their...
More Stories